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Rock Band Road Crew Member Spotlight: Nate Derringer

Hey everybody,

Welcome to our second installment of our Rock Band Road Crew Member Spotlight series. In late August we announced the formation of the Rock Band Road Crew, a rewards program for our most dedicated and loyal rockers. After sifting through hundreds and hundreds of applications, we made our selections.

Since its formation, the Rock Band Road Crew have been busy throwing events, live streaming the game, creating epic DIY Rock Band gear, and being generally awesome human beings.

Each week we'll be highlighting some interesting folks from the crew. You can check out our first interview, with Ciji aka StarSlay3r, here. And if you'd like to nominate a roadie that you think deserves the spotlight, be sure to tweet your nomination to @RockBand.

Our second interview features long time Rock Band community member, event planner, and all around swell fella, Nate! If you have questions about running an epic Rock Band night, bumping into Harmonix devs on the road, or baking cookies, Nate's your guy. (Wait, maybe not on the cookies part... you'll see).

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Let's get to it:

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Nathan Westlund, my stage name is Nate Derringer and I am the current owner and operator of Denver's largest and longest running bar night provider Death of the Arcade Entertainment.

Do you remember the first time you played Rock Band?

Like many other Guitar Hero fans, I preordered Rock Band and got a copy on day one. I knew it was going to be special because I had played just about every other rhythm game Harmonix had put out at that point. I was working part time at Game Stop at the time (I was a seasonal Christmas employee) and I thought I was the cool kid on the block because I had a copy and no one else at the store did. So being the nice guy that I am, I invited all of my coworkers to a Rock Band release party at my apartment. Not a single person showed up. Maybe it's because I didn't know any of them all that well, who's to say? I ended up playing the drums while my girlfriend (who later became my wife) Mary sang the whole night. This was one of the few times Mary had ever joined me to play video games so it was really special to me.

How did you get involved with Death of the Arcade?

It started when I went on the Rock Band forums under the local events section to find people playing in my area. I saw the Death of the Arcade thread and became interested in checking it out. It took me a long time to get up the courage to go out and play in public. The first event I went to was a battle of the bands at a venue called Old Chicago. My band Vengeful Emu came out of nowhere and stole the show. We took first place and the feeling was euphoric!

From there I started going to every bar night and even hired Death of the Arcade for my wedding reception.

Rock Band Wedding!

Over time I became a dedicated roadie and would help the owner, Gabe Martinez, set up and tear down almost every event big and small. I even started running the events that he had to miss. In late 2012 Gabe approached me to announce that he was selling Death of the Arcade, he couldn't keep up with it anymore and knew that I loved the company and could pretty much run the gigs without him (although I have nowhere near his level of charisma). I talked it over with my wife Mary and we decided to refinance our house so that we could purchase the company. Ever since I have been the proud owner of Death of the Arcade Entertainment! It has given me so much joy over the years, I feel like it should continue giving other people joy too.

You make some crazy awesome stuff, like the "drum tank" for your Rock Band nights. Tell the studio audience about some of your best inventions.

The drum tank! Drum tank 2

The first unique thing we have is our drum TV, it was invented by Gabe and then modified by me. In a nutshell we bought an old bass drum and then turned it into a TV stand. It also doubles as a cable storage area. I installed a shelf inside and some LEDs to bring it to the next level of awesome. It really helps to give the drummer their own TV so that they don't have to look around the other band members to see the main one. Also attaching it to a bass drum makes it look like a full on drum kit regardless of which drums you have sitting behind it.

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The next unique item is our main TV stand. The main support structure is an old amp stand to give the TV a lower viewing angle so that the band is not obscured by it. The whole thing would then balance on a sideways speaker, this proved a fatal move on a slippery floor and I lost a TV. I fixed the issue by building a light box to rest the TV on. I hand carved the Rock Band logo out of wood and put LEDs inside to make it more awesome. Then I hand painted the logo and glued frosted plexiglass inside so that the letters would light up.

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I took the TV that broke and turned it into another light box by taking the front screen off and hand painting a Death of the Arcade logo on it.

What's the weirdest thing that's ever happened at one of your Rock Band nights?

Before I took over we had a gig at a place called Illegal Pete’s. One night someone showed up in a full rabbit costume. Furry, head to toe, the whole deal. So of course they picked the song "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane. When the Rabbit went to sing the song, its mouth started moving, I don't think anyone expected that. It does go to show that anyone can play the game and enjoy it, even giant Rabbit people.

Would you consider yourself a Rock Band superfan? Why?

I would most certainly consider myself a Rock Band superfan. I consider music and the expression thereof to be a spiritual experience. There is nothing that comes close to the feeling of performing live music. Not everyone has the ability or the time to be able to experience this for themselves casually. That's where Rock Band comes in, now anyone and everyone can get a chance to experience that feeling. You can have any skill level and any musical preference and Rock Band will let you get on a stage with a band full of people and feel like you're a rock star for a brief moment. And when your song is done someone else from the crowd rotates in and gets a chance to do the same thing.

It is truly an inclusive game, and because of it I've met some of the coolest people I know. I've been flown across the country for tournaments, won concert tickets and even got to play music on the same stage that I've seen some of my favorite musicians perform on! I even got to play with Spartacus (Liam Mcintyre) himself one time!

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So I don't usually have to think about it too hard when I decide to express my fandom by getting a Rock Band tattoo

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or making weird cookies and sending them to Harmonix (It was a corgi hair I promise).

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Rock Band has been a big part of my life since it came out and I will continue to support it in every way I can for as long as I can.

What's been your favorite Road Crew gig so far?

So far my favorite Road Crew gig was the "Top Ten Ways to be Awesome at Rock Band" video gig. When making it I had to look at a lot of old footage from tournaments that I had been a part of. It was kind of fun to just look back and see some of the crazy stuff that happened. It also gave me an excuse to smash an old broken guitar which was fun.

You've been running Rock Band nights for a long time. What advice do you have for someone throwing their very first event?

The most important thing to remember at a Rock Band night is that the event is not about you. If it's successful enough, a lot of people will want to play and you have to make sure that everyone gets a fair amount of stage time. Sometimes this might mean you don't get to play as much as you want. Just remember that you're sharing the joy of Rock Band with other people, not showing off how good you are at playing the game. It's possible to do both but make sure your goals are to get people involved and let everyone have a good time. The more people enjoy themselves the more they will come back and the better chance you will have to make it a recurring gig for you.

Make sure you bring extra batteries and cables, you never know when something is going to stop working on you. Also, to quote the original owner of Death of the Arcade "Go big or go home". You may not have a cool setup at first but seriously consider investing in some good equipment like lights, fog machines, portable stages and TVs/projectors. Treat it like a real concert and people will have even more fun at your events. It will lend a certain level of legitimacy to what you are doing.

What's the most important thing to have at a Rock Band event (that someone might not expect)?




Death of the Arcade lives and dies by its roadies. Running events can be very taxing, and a lot of the time there's too much for one person to do alone. Make friends with people that attend regularly and let them help you tear down and set up. All of our large gigs like Denver Comic Con require a large setup and having friends to help you do this will make the whole thing run a lot smoother and make it much less stressful.


Anything else you want us to know?

I can Rock Band.

That you can.